Trip to Whistler for Mozilla’s work week

Our work week hasn’t started yet, but since I got to Whistler early I have had lots of adventures.

First the obligatory nostril-flaring over what it is like to travel with a wheelchair. As we started the trip to Vancouver I had an interesting experience with United Airlines as I tried to persuade them that it was OK for me to fold up my mobility scooter and put it into the overhead bin on the plane. Several gate agents and other people got involved telling me many reasons why this could not, should not, and never has or would happen:

* It would not fit
* It is illegal
* The United Airlines handbook says no
* The battery has to go into the cargo hold
* Electric wheelchairs must go in the cargo hold
* The scooter might fall out and people might be injured
* People need room for their luggage in the overhead bins
* Panic!!

The Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 says,

Assistive devices do not count against any limit on the number of pieces of carry-on baggage. Wheelchairs and other assistive devices have priority for in-cabin storage space over other passengers’ items brought on board at the same airport, if the disabled passenger chooses to preboard.

In short I boarded the airplane, and my partner Danny folded up the scooter and put it in the overhead bin. Then, the pilot came out and told me that he could not allow my battery on board. One of the gate agents had told him that I have a wet cell battery (like a car battery). It is not… it is a lithium ion battery. In fact, airlines do not allow lithium batteries in the cargo hold! The pilot, nicely, did not demand proof it is a lithium battery. He believed me, and everyone backed down.

The reason I am stubborn about this is that I specially have a very portable, foldable electric wheelchair so that I can fold it up and take it with me. Two times in the past few years, I have had my mobility scooters break in the cargo hold of a plane. That made my traveling very difficult! The airlines never reimbursed me for the damage. Another reason is that the baggage handlers may lose the scooter, or bring it to the baggage pickup area rather than to the gate of the plane.

Onward to Whistler! We took a shuttle and I was pleasantly (and in a way, sadly) surprised that the shuttle liason, and the driver, both just treated me like any other human being. What a relief! It is not so hard! This experience is so rare for me that I am going to email the shuttle company to compliment them and their employees.

The driver, Ivan, took us through Vancouver, across a bridge that is a beautiful turquoise color with stone lions at its entrance, and through Stanley Park. I particularly noticed the tiny beautiful harbor or lagoon full of boats as we got off the bridge. Then, we went up Highway 99, or the Sea to Sky Highway, to Squamish and then Whistler.

Sea to sky highway

When I travel to new places I get very excited about the geology and history and all the geography! I love to read about it beforehand or during a trip.

The Sea to Sky Highway was improved in preparation for the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in 2010. Before it was rebuilt it was much twistier with more steeply graded hills and had many bottlenecks where the road was only 2 lanes. I believe it must also have been vulnerable to landslides or flooding or falling rocks in places. As part of this deal the road signs are bilingual in English and Squamish. I read a bit on the way about the ongoing work to revitalize the Squamish language.

The highway goes past Howe Sound, on your left driving up to Squamish. It is a fjord, created by retreated glaciers around 11,000 years ago. Take my geological knowledge with a grain of salt (or a cube of ice) but here is a basic narrative of the history. AT some point it was a shallow sea here but a quite muddy one, not one with much of a coral reef system, and the mountains were an archipelago of island volcanoes. So there are ocean floor sediments around, somewhat metamorphosed; a lot of shale.

There is a little cove near the beginning of the highway with some boats and tumble-down buildings, called Porteau Cove. Interesting history there. Then you will notice a giant building up the side of a hill, the Britannia Mining Museum. That was once the Britannia Mines, producing billions of dollars’ worth of copper, gold, and other metals. The entire hill behind the building is honeycombed with tunnels! While a lot of polluted groundwater has come out of this mine damaging the coast and the bay waters, it was recently plugged with concrete: the Millenium Plug, and that improved water quality a lot, so that shellfish, fish, and marine mammals are returning to the area. The creek also has trout and salmon returning. That’s encouraging!

Then you will see huge granite cliffs and Shannon Falls. The giant monolith made me think of El Capitan in Yosemite. And also of Enchanted Rock, a huge pink granite dome in central Texas. Granite weathers and erodes in very distinctive ways. Once you know them you can recognize a granite landform from far away! I haven’t had a chance to look close up at any rocks on this trip…. Anyway, there is a lot of granite and also basalt or some other igneous extrusive rock. Our shuttle driver told me that there is columnar basalt near by at a place called French Fry Hill.

The mountain is called Stawamus Chief Mountain. Squamish history tells us it was a longhouse turned to stone by the Transformer Brothers. I want to read more about that! Sounds like a good story! Rock climbers love this mountain.

There are some other good stories, I think one about two sisters turned to stone lions. Maybe that is why there are stone lions on the Vancouver bridge.

The rest of the drive brought us up into the snowy mountains! Whistler is only 2000 feet above sea level but the mountains around it are gorgeous!

The “village” where tourists stay is sort of a giant, upscale, outdoor shopping mall with fake streets in a dystopian labyrinth. It is very nice and pretty but it can also feel, well, weird and artificial! I have spent some time wandering around with maps, backtracking a lot when I come to dead ends and stairways. I am also playing Ingress (in the Resistance) so I have another geographical overlay on the map.

Whistler bridge lost lake

On Sunday I got some groceries and went down paved and then gravel trails to Lost Lake. It was about an hour long trip to get there. The lake was beautiful, cold, and full of people sunbathing, having picnics, and swimming. Lots of bikes and hikers. I ran out of battery (nearly), then realized that the lake is next to a parking lot. I got a taxi back to the Whistler Village hotel! Better for me anyway since the hour long scooter trip over gravel just about killed me (I took painkiller halfway there and then was just laid flat with pain anyway.) Too ambitious of an expedition, sadly. I had many thoughts about the things I enjoyed when I was younger (going down every trail, and the hardest trails, and swimming a lot) Now I can think of those memories, and I can look at beautiful things and also read all the information about an area which is enjoyable in a different way. This is just how life is and you will all come to it when you are old. I have this sneak preview…. at 46…. When I am actually old, I will have a lot of practice and will be really good at it. Have you thought about what kind of old person you would like to be, and how you will become that person?

Today I stayed closer to home just going out to Rebagliati Park. This was fabulous since it wasn’t far away, seriously 5 minutes away! It was very peaceful. I sat in a giant Adirondack chair in a flower garden overlooking the river and a covered bridge. Watching the clouds, butterflies, bees, birds, and a bear! And of course hacking the portals (Ingress again). How idyllic! I wish I had remembered to bring my binoculars. I have not found a shop in the Whistler Mall-Village that stocks binoculars. If I find some, I will buy them.

I also went through about 30 bugs tracked for Firefox 39, approved some for uplift, wontfixed others, emailed a lot of people for work, and started the RC build going. Releng was heroic in fixing some issues with the build infrastructure! But, we planned for coverage for all of us. Good planning! I was working Sunday and Monday while everyone else travelled to get here…. Because of our release schedule for Firefox it made good sense for me to get here early. It also helps that I am somewhat rested from the trip!

I went to the conference center, found the room that is the home base for the release management and other platform teams, and got help from a conference center setup guy to lay down blue tape on the floor of the room from the doorway to the back of the room. The tape marks off a corridor to be kept clear, not full of backpacks or people standing and talking in groups, so that everyone can freely get in and out of the room. I hope this works to make the space easy for me to get around in, in my wheelchair, and it will surely benefit other people as well.

Travel lane

At this work week I hope to learn more about what other teams are doing, any cool projects etc, especially in release engineering and in testing and automated tools and to catch up with the Bugzilla team too. And will be talking a bunch about the release process, how we plan and develop new Firefox features, and so on! Looking forward now to the reception and seeing everyone who I see so much online!

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The wtf-ological imperative

On the last day of Open Source Bridge I had a hilarious random encounter. I was taking some notes and making badges while listening to the lightning talks (which were great). A guy came up to me and gave me a post it note where he had written, “Wikipedia:” and then some links to articles on the categorical imperative, Karl Popper, and a couple more.

He said something like, “You might benefit from reading these, young lady.” Not sure what I said; something like “Ummm thanks. Why are you giving me this?” He said “I like SCIENCE.” I agreed that I also like science, asked his name, and shook his hand. Then I told him it was weird to call me young lady since I’m obviously old enough to be his mom. He went back to where he was sitting and the lightning talks carried on.

I really wondered what was going on. Had I ever met this person? Was he doing this with everyone or was he fixated on me for some reason? I looked at his web site. It didn’t seem odd. Maybe this was just a slightly socially awkward act, and not a Gift of Fear moment from a member of some odd corner of the manosphere. Maybe this is how Dark Enlightenment people try to make frenemies!

At some point later I was standing next to the same guy reading the unconference schedule. I asked him why he called me young lady and why he gave me those links. “Did I do or say anything in particular, at the conference, during my talks, blogging somewhere, that made you think I am in need of special education about empiricism?” He said everyone should have it. “Yes . . . but why me today? What is it? And why call me young lady? I’m 45. You look like you’re in your early 20s.” The guy said it was because of my tshirt. I was wearing my “End Patriarchy” shirt where the word patriarchy is in html markup as an “end” tag; a mildly nerdy feminist joke. He explained that he dislikes postmodernism. I said it was an odd thing to do. He then explained further that he calls every woman “young lady” and that even if I were 70 he would still call me that.

I had to leave the conference to catch my flight so missed out on this puzzling conversation, but I added as I went away that it wasn’t very polite and it seemed even not very empirical of him to classify me as young no matter what. I don’t always care about politeness, it isn’t that really; it’s that his action and the way he talked to me were mind-bogglingly condescending!

I thought about how communication generally happens. I have passed out flyers to people on the street or during rallies or events but usually not as a shorthand to tell them that they’re wrong in real life. Argument at that level generally happens in something that is framed as, well, argument, or public discourse, or has some other teaching, learning, or activist context. But perhaps my tshirt with its feminist joke is like an invitation to philosophical debate! Yes, I asked for it by wearing this outfit…. *snort* I think if this is going to be a movement, the enlightened ones need something more catchy than a torn pink post-it note. There should be some Kantian Chick Tracts for budding deontologists to hand out on the street to anyone who expresses some identity politics or looks like they might edit the Geek Feminism Wiki. Like creeper cards, but you just hand them to people who are sitting in a chair minding their own business! There could be a whole series of philosophical and political comic books that let feminists and other wrong headed folks know where we missed the logic train. It would be especially great as part of a cult to save our scientific souls! Like Less Wrong, but *even sillier*!

Maybe trading cards or a collectible card game so that I could whip out an Instant and like, counterspell the dude’s Karl Popper with a Paul Feyerabend card drawn by Katja Foglio. It really needs more elegance and fun to be playable!

In short I could not take this moment seriously and had trouble believing it even happened. So I honor that WTF by pausing a moment to record it for all time and make fun of it on the internet.

Chick tract

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Mozilla’s bug reporting, QA, and release processes

AdaCamp Portland was an amazing conference for feminist women in open source tech and culture. Not all, but many of the conference attendees are developers, system administrators, or do other technical work in open source software. I gave an informal talk meant to be an overview of some things I currently do at Mozilla. Lots of people came to the session! We all introduced ourselves going around the room.

To start off with, I showed a sample bug to talk about the process of reporting a bug, using Bugzilla, and practicing the skill of reading and understanding a bug report.

We looked first at Bug 926292.

Bugzilla couple

Let’s look at the life of this bug!

This bug was reported in October 2013 for Firefox 24 by someone new to bugzilla.mozilla.org. New users have basic permissions to file and comment on bugs. For around their first 25 bugs filed or commented on, they are marked “New to Bugzilla” to anyone with more permissions on the system. This helps more experienced users to know when they’re in conversation with people who are relatively new to the system. And, bugs reported by new users are automatically entered into Bugzilla with a status of “UNCONFIRMED”.

Our bug reporter was answered the same day by a community bug triager who used the “needinfo” checkbox to ask the bug reporter more questions. A bit later, in Comment 2, I was able to confirm the bug; I marked it NEW. Community members often jump in to do this from Bug Triage bug days, from our One and Done community taskboard, or because they watch the “Firefox::Untriaged” component. (Yes . . . you too can sign up to get email from Bugzilla every time a new bug is filed!)

Francesca Ciceri is currently working on bug triage and verification with our team as part of the GNOME-OPW internship program, doing similiar work to Tiziana Selitto who was an OPW intern last year! Both their blogs have good insights into what it’s like to approach QA in a huge and somewhat chaotic system like Mozilla’s.

In our example bug, I took a guess as to which product and component to add to the bug. This is like putting the bug into the right place where developers who work in a particular area will be likely to see it, and pay attention to it. I moved it from “Firefox” to “Core” and thought it may be something to do with the CSS Object Model. Picking the right product and component is tricky. Sometimes I look for similar bugs, to see what component they’re in. Sometimes I use Bugzilla’s Browse pages to skim or search through the descriptions of components for Firefox, Core, and Toolkit. Even after doing this for a year and a half, I get it wrong. Here, a developer moved the bug to what he thought was a better component for it, Core::Layout. (Developers also sometimes guess wrong, and keep passing a bug around to each others’ components like a hot potato.)

At this point a few developers explored the bug, and went back and forth with each other and the bug reporter about whether it had been fixed or not, exactly what the bug was, whether it is a Mac issue or a Firefox issue, and how to fix it. It was resolved as a duplicate of another bug in October, but the bug reporter came back to reopen it in February 2014. The bug reporter was polite but persistent in explaining their view, giving more details of the browser behavior, trying to find the bug in the very latest developer build (Nightly), giving a test case and comparing the behavior in different browsers. A developer submitted a patch, asked for code review. Related bugs were mentioned and linked. At least two new bugs were filed.

One important thing to note is that people working on QA and development tend to move very fluidly between using various Firefox versions. One of the best things you can do to get involved with helping out is to set up all four “channels” of Firefox with the capability to run them all at once with different profiles, and to start with new, clean profiles. In fact, we need better and more up to date documentation of how to do that on different operating systems, with screenshots! Here are some links that may help you set that up:
* http://www.callum-macdonald.com/about/faq/multiple-firefox-instances/
* https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Mozilla/Multiple_Firefox_Profiles
* https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/profile-manager-create-and-remove-firefox-profiles

OK, back to bug 926292!

Since I had worked on the bug and added myself to the cc field, I got bugmail about all these changes, and more or less followed a long. I often think that the collaboration that happens in bug fixing is very beautiful, and even fairly efficient!

In comment 29 you can see that code got committed to a mercurial repository, to “inbound”. From there, it goes through automated tests and is merged by one of the “sheriffs” into another hg repository, mozilla-central, where it will go into the next build of Nightly, which at that point in April, was Firefox 31.

Comment 30 suggests uplifting the patch to versions that will soon be released, to Aurora and Beta. Release managers started to get involved, commenting and asking the developers to formally nominate the bug for uplift.

At this point in my talk I explained a little bit about the “trains”.

Trains

The versions of Firefox under development advance on a 6 week cycle, from Nightly to Aurora to Beta to the main release of Firefox. In this rapid release schedule, Firefox 31 was Nightly, so Aurora was 30, 29 was Beta, and the release version most folks use was 28. The uplift request was refused so the patch “rode the train”. That means, if you were using Firefox 31 any time after the patch was merged into mozilla-central, you will see its effect. (It would also be fixed for Firefox 32 and 33 which are currently in use as Aurora and Nightly, since 31 is currently Beta.)

Our bug was marked “FIXED” when the patch was merged into mozilla-central. You can see near the end of its comments that I tagged the bug “verifyme” to put it into the queue of bugs that need verifying for Firefox 31. Many people see that list and work on verifying bugs including community members in our Bug Verification test days. I hope the story of this particular bug is over. I don’t have the number immediately to hand but I believe that over 1000 bugs are fixed for each version of Firefox over its release cycle. We can’t verify them all, but it’s amazing what we do get done as a team!

Other tools we looked at in my talk and the ensuing discussion:

Datazilla, which tests and measures Firefox performace: https://datazilla.mozilla.org/

Mozmill, a UI automation framework for Mozilla apps including Firefox and Thunderbird: https://github.com/mozilla/mozmill

Socorro, or crash-stats, where QA and other teams keep track of crashes in Firefox and other Mozilla products: https://crash-stats.mozilla.com

The ftp directories where Firefox builds and build candidates are stored: ftp://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/mozilla.org/firefox/candidates/

The mercurial repositories or “the tree”: http://hg.mozilla.org/

DXR, a nifty tool to search Mozilla’s code: http://dxr.mozilla.org/mozilla-central/source/

TBPL which shows the test results for every commit that’s merged into different branches https://tbpl.mozilla.org/

And a quick view into Mozilla’s Jenkins continuous integration dashboard which you can only see from our VPN, just to give an idea of the work we do when Firefox is in Beta. As a particular version of Firefox advances through rapid release, QA pays more attention to particular areas and uses different tools. We have to know a little bit about everything, be able to reproduce a user’s bug on many different possible platforms, figure out which developers may be able to fix a bug (or whose commit may have caused a regression or crash).

It was a lot to cover in an hour long talk! I wanted to pilot this informally as a test for doing a more formal talk with slides.

It represented fairly well that QA covers quite a lot of territory; it’s complicated and interesting work.

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Geek Girl Con, Saturday!

I’m at GeekGirlCon today!!! It’s awesome! 3rd year in a row!

I spent yesterday in The Attic, Seattle’s feminist community workshop/hacker/maker space. The Attic’s booth here at GeekGirlCon is representing the space’s combination of fiber, art, tech, robots, geekiness, hacking, and making things very beautifully and there are tshirts and stickers! That’s where I’ll be on Sunday morning and part of the afternoon, orbiting between the games area, the Art Alley, and The Attic’s table.

the_attic_seattle.jpg

Here are some quick shout outs to people I talked with today and cool stuff I saw.

Heroes & Inspirations who make jewelry and art. Their new Ladies of Science series is great. There’s a Heroes and Inspirations Ladies of Science Kickstarter! I’m definitely backing this project and want several of the wearable tributes to admirable scientists!
Stasia Burrington who has a print (and tshirt) of a woman in a pile of cats and another that I love that is kind of the same concept with books. As I look through her etsy shop I want to buy a zillion prints… her work is so charming!
Bhaloidam, an interesting board game that is a storytelling RPG.
BigBrainedSuperheroes Club, a STEAM education organization!
Monkey Minion Press who have very beautifully done posters with SF retro WWII themes, often somewhat creepy.
ReelGrrls who are working with young women to teach video production skills and to support their work as film makers.
Women’s Funding Alliance which is a big philanthropic collective.

I got to talk a bit with Tempest who was on the panel “Changing Culture in Mainstream and Alternative Spaces” which I thought of as the “safer spaces” strategy panel. The panel was good. I also met up with Sigrid Ellis who I know from WisCon and who is now editing Apex Magazine. In a totally lucky random encounter I ended up talking intensely with Elsa S. Henry from Feminist Sonar and went to her Disabled Geeks panel which was not in the schedule booklet but which was well attended. Here are my notes on the panel! They’re a bit rough and were basically liveblogging that I have not fully edited.

Elsa and Stevi Costa are speaking on the Disabled Geeks panel. Elsa’s talking about comics and characters with disabilities. Disability is used as a narrative crutch. The words “inspiration porn” are also being tossed out there . . . for those of us who might be hate-watching things like Glee or watching Push Girls. (Audience LOL, ruefully). Disability is too often used as a metaphor for overcoming obstacles. It’s rare to have a character born with a disability who did not get bitten by a radioactive spider but has been how they are since birth.

Discussion of the Glee character who is a wheelchair user who is played by a non-disabled character. Elsa describes the horrible scene where he gets up out of the wheelchair and dances, which many people felt was a huge problem, since you don’t have to miraculously get out of your wheelchair in order to dance. You can dance while using your wheelchair or while you have whatever other impairment you happen to have in your life. Your dreams may be things that you can actually fucking do. Etc. An audience member describes her teeth grinding as the pretty girl gets to walk across the room getting out of her chair in some other episode. As if, aww, the other guy is the loser in the chair. There is also an Xmas episode where the guy wishes he could walk. Critique of the “walking” exoskeleton thingies. My personal reaction is that I am kind of glad I have never watched this show.

“Yay, accepting our cyborg bodies and then we become your OVERLORD.” *audience cheer*

Something something crip sex. (I had lost the thread, but start paying attention at these words…) “How did that feel to you?” “I dunno”. It was amazing but it just can’t make up for that dancing episode. Another episode where bullies take a blind person’s cane away. That was a painful moment for Elsa since people have done that to her deciding that she doesn’t need her cane so that they can bully her. Invisible disabilities represented, for once the character with Downs Syndrome is played by an actor with Downs. Great character usually but the school shooter episode was incredibly bad. Inconsistent with the character, makes it look like PWD have no future after the insitutional support of childhood and youth. Yes there is fear but they blew it out of proportion and people said online “I wonder if that’s going to happen at my school”. It represented disabled people as violent when actually we are often the targets of violence.

How about Oracle. (I cheer). Elsa loved Oracle, a great superhero with disabilities. And then they took her away. Oh, you’re disabled, you’re like one of the X-Men. No actually I’m not. And Oracle was a woman with an actual disablity who lived with her physical impairments.

In contrast in the Daredevil movie, she lasted 2 minutes, the movie was too much. “My nickname is snarkbat, I use snark to echolocate.” Why doesn’t he use the cane while he’s in the costume!? I’d like to see a superhero who uses a cane. So I had someone make me one. People with disabilities should be able to cosplay anything they want. My blind cataracted eye is not a special effects contact! Please do not ask me where I bought my own eyeball. Then I will tell you I bought it at Rubella and you will feel like a jerk. I’m playing Odin today. (Elsa holds up her cape with a raven (Munin) attached to the shoulder.) (I asked her earlier if it was Hugin or Munin) People ask Hey where’d you get that awesome contact, they assume you couldn’t be disabled so you become strangely invisitble again. Elsa asks for abled bodied people to not cosplay disability. It makes many of us really frustrated. We need to be recognized and read as people with disabilities. If you are playing disabled with your pirate eyepatch you are making the world worse for people who actually need to wear one. The fictionalizing means the people aren’t reading us as real.

Why would you go to all the trouble of finding visually impaired young women to play helen keller but as the understudy for the not-visually-impaired main actress who got cast for the role. There could be the name recognition if you start casting us in the roles.

Cons and accessible space. Getting trampled and pushed around in crowds. This con is good. People are educated to the point where they are not pushing into people in wheelchairs, people with white canes. This con has an introvert alley so people can go have some quiet space. We have a wheelchair lift here at the stage. (though . . . no one on stage who is a wheelchair user. . . .) Stevi asks Elsa when she goes to larger cons that don’t have any focus on inclusivity do you feel that you become invisible? Geek culture is not as inclusive as it is supposed to be. That is why Elsa does not like to go to cons. She doesn’t like feeling invisible and being trampled. She lives in NYC and is used to that environment but to come into a safer space where it’s “our people” it would be nice not to be run over. (I so strongly agree!! This feeling only grows in me that we have to insist on respect from our communities.)

Audience question about therapy dogs and fakers. Yeah Hmmmmm. Panel handles this question with perhaps too much patience. OK I popped up and asked the asker if she has a special need to police whether people are really disabled or not or a concern over being allergic to dogs or dog phobic so it becomes an issue for her or people around her. Come on. Is this the moment?

Elsa talks about how she wears glasses and can see partially. People go Hey are you really blind? Yes. they don’t give white canes out like candy and I really need it. People come up to me at cocktail parties and ask me how many fingers they are holding up. People just take my cane because they are curious. It’s not okay to just investigate my disability. Peeople with disabilities are not public property. We are human beings. TELL IT. Stevi adds that we narrativize it to where the story is that you have gone from being able-bodies to disabled and that is the dominant story.

Aud comment about being happy to be talking about people who were born with disabilities and glad we’re having this panel. She wants to talk about more pop culture and the show Covert Affairs. The character who is super sexy and confident. He is not really blind but the attempt to make a positive character is awesome and rare so props to them for trying. Elsa says she will have to watch it. She is the only blind burlesque performer she knows about. How does she know she’s being attractive? Well, she practices a lot and asks her friends if she looks good in her costumes.

Aud comment about the school shooting story. She wants to know recs for characters where their disability is not the issue.

Elsa recommends Switched at Birth it is sort of ridiculous and has some sort of weird republican thing going on, but they have an entire episode done in ASL where the characters are all teenage girls.

Stevi likes the Michael J Fox show because they address the inspiration porn question head on, in episode one and then they move on and he is just a character who happens to have Parkinson’s and that isn’t what it’s about. The first episode includes some epic crip humor. Then it becomes a normal family sitcom which includes a character with a chronic condition.

Another rec from the audience, the forensic doctor on CSI. He plays guitar, he happens to have one leg, he is awesome.

Back to superheroes with disability. The character Hawkeye lost 80% of his hearing. it became part of his character but then of course then in 2000s he got reset.

Can we stop resetting the disabled characters? OMG.

Fanfic writers cherrypicked that one detail and wrote after the Avengers movies how he had hearing loss. A lot of it was great but there was also a lot of problematic aspects where people wrote it as inspiration porn where he overcomes his hearing loss etc.

Breaking Bad and a character where a disabled actor applied for a character who was written as able bodied and he is a great actor, they just put it into his character, they didn’t reject him from the role, it was just like the color of a person’s hair or whatever.

Cosplay and able bodied people and disabled people What if there is an able bodied people who really likes Oracle and wants to cosplay Oracle. What if there’s a person in the wheelchair who wants to cosplay Supergirl. What then.

Elsa says people in wheelchairs can cosplay whoever they want. But if you are able bodied and want to cosplay Oracle just dont use a wheelchair. If you dont need it please don’t use it. Do not put on cripface. Geordi’s visor is fiction, it is not a real device so it isn’t going to be mixed up with reality. Stevi thinks it is possible to use an assistive device in cosplay in a way that is respectful, but it is tricky. Elsa wants people who are not disabled not to be read as disabled.

(Personally I have some complicated feelings around this and I don’t like the idea that people think they can just play disability. What the hell, isn’t there enough to play with? And, it is even more complicated because of actual discrimination and also I would add in fetishists as an issue. I don’t like the idea that, as with actors, Non disabled people get attention and fame from pretending to be us and perhaps “doing it better”. They get rewarded for performing “disability” in ways that are more acceptable to mainstream culture than the actual lives and being in the world of those of us who are disabled. How can this not fail to be offensive and have the fake cripple come off as perky or happier or reacting in some way that gets props from people who want everything to be okay. My first reaction is that it makes me instantly angry. I let people ride my scooter and manual chair to experience it as fun and not unimaginable. But I hate the idea that people would pretend they are disabled as their costume. )

Elsa talking about her current work writing a game module for ghost hunting blind people, warriors of midgaard, for role playing games. I know how to do and represent this thing. Pay me to do it. Rather than thinking you know it all and faking it.

Orange is the New Black, best humor moment with wheelchair, Scared Straight group goes to the prison and one of the prisoners goes you think you’re really tough . . . She is the most bad ass, I will shank you so hard character.

The panel wraps up. I did not count the attendees but would estimate 30-40 people as I think back on how full the room was.

YAY, great panel!

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AdaCamp meanderings

Tonight was the AdaCamp San Francisco reception, at Google on the 6th floor. We had some food and beer, talked a million miles an hour, and got a short nice speech from the Site Reliability Engineering team. Thanks Google SRE for sponsoring the dinner!

I got an awesome sticker from somebody that says “Intersectional Feminism Fuck Yeah” which is basically the best thing ever. It goes well with the “Open Source Fuck Yeah” sticker on my laptop!

Hung out and talked with SO MANY PEOPLE. Great conversations about mapping, the Hate Map, Open Street Map, open source hardware kits for fiber arts people, web accessibility struggles in open source, all kinds of gossip, new feminist hackerspaces starting up like the Seattle Attic and one coming soon in Portland (there may be an SF one someday … stay tuned). Ciberseguridad in Mexico for feminist activists, scooters…. I can’t remember what else but I was never bored for even a second. Everyone was so nerdy and happy. I can’t wait for tomorrow!

This week I had fun in my “spare” time working with some tactile mapping folks from Lighthouse SF and the AdaCamp organizers. It was somewhat harder than I thought and was my first try at mapping an interior space collaboratively instead of just writing descriptions on my own. So I learned a lot. Here are some tactile map pics for the sighted. I did not know that braille was be printed double sided; the two sides are offset.

adacamp tactile map
A tactile map of the 15th floor of the Mercantile Exchange building, with braille printing.
tactile map key
A map key that says “Symbols and Abbreviations” with braille printing.

I also experimented with writing a textual description of the space and its rooms and exits, which an attendee had asked for. I volunteered to do this for inter disability solidarity, but also because I enjoy writing interactive fiction and MUD areas very much, and have lots of practice at it. The requester mentioned the possibility of different layers of description, maybe on different pages. I ended up making a single text file as The Ada Camp Text Adventure, where each room was marked with “h2” and an anchor tag. Then I hyperlinked the room names. Each room has a short description and a long description. The long description isn’t marked separately but is just in the second paragraph for each room. There are probably more elegant and useful ways to approach this. It would be interesting to collect other examples.

In the descriptions, I did not use 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock as I read was common for way finding and orientation for blind and visually impaired people. Instead I tried to have one clock orientation at the building entrance, and then switch to North south east west terminology. I tried breaking the word AdaCamp into two words as I felt more confident it would read out correctly as Ada Camp. Perhaps it is not different enough to matter. Consistency in the descriptions and style of describing exits may or may not be important. But I am not sure. While the text adventure’s recipient said it was great, I am not sure that means it is useful. To know how to do this usefully, I would need to iterate with map or text adventure users willing to spend significant time exploring and talking about it. But, as I am probably reinventing the wheel, it would be good for me to read more about what other people do in this area too.

What I’m wondering is, could I do this in a useful way for future events or for spaces I inhabit regularly, like Noisebridge, or WisCon? If so, then more people should do it for public spaces or events and I can tell them so. Also, it would be fun and interesting.

My dream from some years back is that Open Street Map would have text adventure markup, so that particular places in very fine grained ways could be described. It would be fun for people with any level of vision to walk around a city, or a campus, like a MUD, or to look north from a particular address and see what there is to see. Maybe that could make audio navigation descriptions more useful.

I keep saying “useful” and that is because I have seen so many pointless wankery “design” type of oh what a nifty thing this would be for disabled people things that maybe also make a Statement, but they aren’t really nifty, and suck, and are a waste of time and money and energy, and they are very annoying. Usefulness is much nicer.

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Feminist hacker lounge at PyCon

PyCon gave non-profit booth space to The Ada Initiative and Mozilla for our Feminist Hacker Lounge and it turned out just awesome. Though it was only a 10×10 booth space lined with beanbags we met and hung out with lots of fantastic people. Lukas, Val, Mary and I roamed the exhibit halls, went to talks, and handed out stickers. We were right next to the PyLadies booth, across from CodeChix, and diagonally across from Women Who Code. So that made for good synergy. We also sent emissaries across the exhibit hall to trade stickers with the Lady Coders.

ada init booth

In the afternoon on Friday we had some larger discussions but mostly people just wanted to talk with each other in small groups. One of the things people said most often was how welcoming various Python communities had been to them and how comfortable they felt. That was great to hear.

We talked about hackerspaces and projects like Planeteria and whatever we have going in github and our jobs. We talked about stuff we want to do at AdaCamp in June. And Lukas and I got into some weird installer problems in trying to deploy bz-tools with stackato on paas.allizom.org. We told some horror stories and a lot of jokes. I painted my nails “VT100” green with “Tux” black stripes. At one point I watched two math nerds realize they shared a “pure math” background and saw them both get ecstatic expressions on their faces, scream, and hug… And obviously we all spent a lot of time just staring at our laptops while lying there on the floor.

ada initiative

One thing I talked about to people…. brainstorming ideas for a project that I thought of when I read harthur’s post after some code of hers got harshly criticized. (She has a followup post: Open Source Rocks which is also very good.) As I was thinking about students looking for open source projects to contribute too, I wondered if we could offer github projects owned by women to women — in a similar way to how Code Triage works. You could add your repo to the tool and then other women might browse through by language or in some other way, find it, and pick it to contribute to (perhaps getting a periodic email invitation with a bug to fix.)

This would be easier and slicker than many “mentoring”, even peer mentoring, match-up tools I have seen over the years.

(The obvious problem, of course, is that adding your repo to this tool may just get you threats, rude propostions, and nasty hate mail. But so does everything else that identifies us as female — and that just can’t stop us.)

I also spent some time talking with a very nice guy about his teenage daughter’s ventures into hackerdom. She has been doing electronics and robotics projects since she was in preschool. He recommended this amazing looking camp for gifted math students to girls and young women looking for their peers. They are Epsilon Camp for age 8 – 11, Math Path for middle school students, and Math Camp for high school.

It was great to be at PyCon and meet so many amazing people! I really appreciated that the PyCon organizers gave us some free passes which we gave out to some Feminist HackerHive women who would not otherwise have been able to go. Yay PyCon! And much thanks to Mozilla for providing the beanbags and portable whiteboard.

feminist hacker lounge

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To Vindobona! and beyond

I am leaving tomorrow for Vienna where I will be speaking at the OSCE Internet 2013 conference. They had asked me to write a chapter for their 2013 book on Internet freedom — on the Amina hoax, identity on the Internet, and journalism. For the conference, I’ll be on the Social News panel along with Christian Möller, Anna Kachkaeva, Leonard Novy, and Filip Wallberg. I’m looking forward to meeting people at the conference! I’ve never been to Vienna. In preparation I read some histories on the net and a very boring book called Vienna: A Cultural History, and also I raced through Man Without Qualities and Young Torless to give me some atmosphere.

The only interesting facts I got from the Cultural History were that Marcus Aurelius probably died in Vindobona and that Austria’s first writer was Ava of Melk. I have found better book recommendations now! The conference will take up most of my time but it would be nice to wander around the Inner Stadt and find the Museum of the Romans on Marc-Aurelstrasse. It was completely engrossing to study maps of the city and try to orient myself before getting there. I am trying to practice useful phrases like “Wo ist die Fahrstühl?” and “Eine Melange, bitte, danke schon”. My other ambitions for Vienna are to go to Metalab (the hackerspace) and the Frauen Cafe (the feminist cafe and I think bookstore). Metalab is not very accessible sounding but they have written me lovely email basically promising to haul me up there.

I will keep the glories of the Austrian Year firmly in mind as my hands freeze in my manual wheelchair rims and I cough my lunghs out with asthma from the cigarette smoke that will surely be everywhere. At least this way (languishing in Vienna) I’ll be in solidarity with Marcus Aurelius.

vindobona_map.jpg

Next Friday I will be heading to London and working there for a week with other people on the Automated Tools team and dkl who does a lot of work on Bugzilla. Probably will meet up with my friend Bryony, Danny’s niece Ro, cdent who I used to work with at Socialtext, and other friends. I would like to have tea at the National Portrait Gallery, go to Forbidden Planet and some interesting sounding political bookstores along with Foyles which seems to have eaten the feminist Silver Moon bookstore. Then will go to the Cafe in the Crypt at St. Martin’s in the Field which I think sounds hilarious and amazing. It sounds wheelchair accessible and plus it is described thusly:

Once inside the Crypt there is a warm welcome awaiting you with beautiful 18th century architecture brick-vaulted ceilings, historic tombstones beneath your feet and delicious home-cooked food to feast your eyes and stomach on.

That sentence is so wrong; so perfectly wrong. The warmth, the brick, the tombstones, and the mention of several body parts in conjunction with the word “feast” make it sound like a sort of Zombie Pizzeria. All this and Bach fugues too for 26 quid. It really can’t fail.

I am vowing to slink off at lunchtimes to take virtuous naps while my coworkers from Mozilla go to fascinating pubs, but am not sure that will ever really happen. In London it will be super tempting to go lots of places because I’m renting a mobility scooter and it won’t be hurting my hands and shoulders to push my chair around town.

This is going to be fun though I’m worried about being in pain especially on the plane trip, but then also in pain and alone much of the time, which can be a little hard to take. So I really need to slow that mustang down and be patient, rather than trying to do all the things I would like to do. Luckily I really enjoy reading and learning about places so that it is like I get to do that much more, just by reading later about where I’ve been.

This weekend we went to Tom’s house for a Ping Pong Deathmatch and I sat watching the kids and other lively people playing. The garage with the ping pong table was cold so I was huddled in my huge woollen scarf/shawl. At one point I began imagining how things would go if we were in a Three Stooges skit. I could see the old fashioned font with a title like “Ping Pong Gone Wrong” or “Kings of the Ping”. Larry, Curly, and Moe would be in the garage to do some menial job and in the garage there would be a new invention of an automatic ping-pong ball launcher. Milo and I started describing all the things that could happen as the garage came apart catastrophically, with a really good bit where Larry goes head first into the washing machine which spins his legs around and around like a drill. Someone would be folded into the ping pong table and the whole skit might end with the garage door opening and the table (with all 3 on it, plus the automatic launcher) racing uncontrollably down a hill. Again I felt lucky that I can enjoy things without leaping around. I am like Des Esseintes except (usually) not filled with loathing. Also, how lucky that my son loves to go on these imaginary voyages too!

Then we played an excellent and clever resource management/politics board game called Chicken Caesar, which we didn’t fully get into the swing of because we needed to get home, but I might like to buy it and play it for real!

Other than that the kids played Minecraft *all weekend*. They are completely obsessed.

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Off to Kiwicon!

I am preparing to go to Kiwicon 6 in Wellington, New Zealand! I’ll be speaking on hacker communities. I’m super excited to meet people, hear all the talks, blog about everything, scoot around town, and see lots of people I know from geekfeminism.org, linux.conf.au, and DrupalSouth. I’m also speaking at the Geek Girl Dinner along with Laura Bell of in2securITy!

Kiwicon 666

It is the end of days; the sky has torn asunder, for it is Kiwicon six hundred sixty six.

Organised by and for the NZ hacker community, Kiwicon brings together hackers, their whitehat chums, and curious bystanders who are interested in the very very thin veneer of robustness spackled over our technological world.

First priority, fixing my scooter. So I want to talk about that before talking about the con and non-hardware hacking! Zach from the hackability list helped me again, bringing over all his tools. I have a tiny travel multimeter now, but am probably not going to have a tiny soldering iron before the trip. After 3 separate things broke on my scooter on day 1 of my trip to Mexico, I swore never to travel again with a scooter without the stuff to fix it! Though I was very smug that my Spanish was good enough to have a long conversation with an electrician that went far beyond “No sirve” as we opened up my dashboard. Fortunately guessing words like “voltímetro” worked well.

potentiometer and its lever

One problem was that a diode blew. It is in between the two 12-volt sealed lead-acid batteries and once Zach and I had tested everything else we opened up the heat shrink tubing and found this giant useless diode. I think (after discussion with Susan, Zach, and some very nice engineer from the fab lab in China that makes the scooters) it may in theory serve to stop you from draining your batteries by accident. In practice it underpowers the motor so we just snipped it out and didn’t replace it. The hacked smart charger we made for the scooter may have blown it out.

Another problem was that some wires came loose in the dashboard from the cruise control potentiometers despite that I had covered them in tons of hot glue. (The electrician in La Paz and I fixed that bit.) The third thing wrong was that the main throttle potentiometer shaft, which is very long, was out of whack or bent, so the scooter just wouldn’t start, because the motor controller checks to make sure the controls are centered before it will let you start. The driver who loaded my scooter into the back of his van in Los Cabos for the drive to La Paz did not take the seat off the scooter’s frame before bending down the dashboard on its pole. So the acceleration lever (forward and backward) and thus, the throttle pot shaft, was resting directly on the seat and got screwed up. I had a great time in La Paz anyway in a janky rental Everest and Jennings manual chair pushed by Oblomovka and spent the rest of my time in bed (properly as I should, but boringly), on the beach 50 steps from the hotel, or in the tiny front sidewalk table of the hotel cafe writing and sketching.

The Malecón (walkway or boardwalk along the sea) of La Paz was lovely, nicely paved for wheelchairs or scooters, very flat, and very long. It is level in some places with the beach and in others looks out over riprap or extends to piers. At the Science Expo we saw this otherworldly sculpture of a ballena tiburon, or WHALE SHARK. I think of WHALE SHARKS in all caps, always.

on another planet with 2 suns!

Also awesome in La Paz: All of La Paz and the people I met! The lovely, fascinating, kind, people of the Hotel Mediterrane, a small LGBT hotel in La Paz that felt like a bed & breakfast. And the beaches, especially Tecolote and Balandra!

Then Hurricane Sandy happened and I contributed a little bit to this massive group effort to help out and felt a lot of love for the extended “cripfam” of my friends.

We continue our Anarchafeminist Hackerhive meetings at Noisebridge and are looking closely in what’s happening at HackerMoms, LOL, and Sudo Room! Everyone should read Jenny Ryan’s article on co-operation amongst Bay Area hackerspaces:
Hacking the Commons: How to Start a Hackerspace
as it conveys the fabulousness of the Bay Area hackerspaces & the synergy that is building these days.

Oh, and I made up a version of The Internationale to sing at Noisebridge and other hackerspaces, The Hackernationale, for a hackerspace anthem, because the Free Software Song is a bit hard to sing and play. The Hackernationale is especially suitable for singing to sleeping hackers, and I plan on writing many more verses for it!

So, Kiwicon! I will talk about mildy subversive things which hopefully will not sound like “buzzwording buzzword for buzzwordists” since I could not call the talk “How to Conspire to Do Illegal Things”. It will be thought provoking, odd, scary, and wildly entertaining for 9:15 in the morning as I bounce around a stage in the Wellington Opera House ranting and waving my arms wildly like a tiny wheeled Wizard of Frobozz!

Bootstrapping InfoSec for Hacktivists
As hackers and activists, we have a lot of power and many vulnerabilities. And as we act not just as lone hackers but in working groups, our infosec practices can expose not only ourselves but our associates. Acting with power, responsibility, and as much safety as possible means we need good operational security for whole communities, whether they’re publishing citizen journalism and leaked information, challenging censorship and copyright law, or taking direct political action locally or internationally. This talk will walk us through some cultural frameworks and technical tools created by and for emerging hacker communities. Who are we? Who will dislike our actions? What channels might they use? And how can we treat them as bugs, and route around them?

Before giving that talk on Saturday morning I will be at the Arduino thing on Friday, then maybe the Surviving Kiwicon orientation if I’m not falling over from jet lag, then the clambake Geek Girl Dinner, then the speakers’ party. On Saturday I’m especially interested in Alex Kirk’s talk on Master Phishing, Leigh Honeywell’s talk “Firehoses and Asbestos Pants” on the security incident & response life cycle, the web app recon talk and the talk where 3 guys with ponytails talk about security. On Sunday, I really want to go to Open Source Security Response, The tale of a Firefox bug by Thoth and the Wi-fi attack cycle talk which I believe will actually take place with the souped-up motorcycle on stage and which MAY INSPIRE me to stuff more electronics and another large deep-cycle battery into my mobility scooter. Also this seems like the quintessential Kiwicon talk since their Secret Cabal clearly LOVES METAL. This is the best conference talk description ever!!!!!

War driving has been around for a very, very long time, however it has been missing a few key things. Mainly leather, Judas Priest and Motorcycles. ‘Ghost riders in your LAN’ is a talk based around overclocking the wardriving game by introducing gasoline, angle grinders, cheap wifi gear and a build price smaller than your slightly more exorbitant weekend bender. This talk is a collaboration between Security-Assessment.com and Stray Rats Custom Motorcycles. I will be covering the details of how to build a wifi-attack-cycle from ground up – from electronics and cheap-and-cheerful heads up displays to the bike modifications required to mount all the tech and look awesome while terrorizing your local neighborhood TP-LINKs. Ride the metal monster, breathing death and fire. Closing in with vengeance broadcasting high. This is the WifiKiller.

OMG! I want a ride on this beast!!!

Actually, Sunday has more talks than I can possibly sit up for, so if you see me lying down in the back of the theater please don’t be alarmed, I am just resting my back, or have taken too many muscle relaxants. Carry on!

After the con I am going to veg a lot and go to the indoor swimming pool for some physical therapy and hang around Wellington for a few days. Maybe with Joh and sundry, maybe with hyp4t1a if she doesn’t disappear off into some sort of skiing, rock climbing hinterland!

Say hello if you see me, I look like this and am on a little blue scooter or hobbling slowly around on a cane:
new shirt

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Support a geek feminist nonprofit!

I’m donating — at the $15/month level — to support The Ada Initiative, a small non-profit that’s tackling sexism in open tech and open culture. Over the last few years we’ve seen women stand up to assert that sexism and gender bias exists. It affects us directly and indirectly. It harms our lives. It makes it harder for us to contribute to projects that further our ideals. We believe passionately, some of us, in FOSS, in collaboration and sharing, building tools that empower people, opening information access for all to use and build upon. We want to participate fully in that culture.

One of the first steps to increase women’s participation is naming the problems of bias, misogyny, sexism, and harassment. That’s absolutely crucial! We continue to do that, in parallel with many other efforts. To many people, calling out problems looks like complaining. Why are we just whining about sexism? Why don’t we “do something”? The Ada Initiative is an earnest — and effective — way of doing something. If you’ve ever felt impatient with people’s complaints about sexism, here’s an opportunity for you to put your money on the line, to support a force for positive change.

How can we change things? What about constructive actions? What positive steps can we take? The Ada Initiative takes on the task of improving women’s participation in FOSS conferences and events, and in other public arenas for speech. Valeria Aurora and Mary Gardiner, and the rest of us, are working to build spaces for women to participate in public discourse.

Harassment often keeps women out of that public sphere, or drives them away. The Ada Initiative is working with a large number of tech conferences and other events to take a definite stand against harassment. But we also work to strengthen women’s participation in other ways. Here are some of the other things The Ada Initiave does:

Created AdaCamp conference: Held two AdaCamps, a wildly popular unconference for women and advocates of women in open tech/culture.
Made conferences safer for women: Wrote and encouraged adoption of policies preventing harassment of women, now in use by hundreds of conferences and organizations in open tech/culture as well as science fiction conventions, fan conventions, computer game conferences, and skeptic/atheist conferences.
Reached thousands of people through speaking: Spoke about increasing diversity and welcoming women at several conferences, including co-founder Mary Gardiner’s keynote at Wikimania 2012. We also helped many of our advisors and supporters develop keynote speeches on diversity, including Sumana Harihareswara’s OSBridge 2012 keynote, Sarah Stierch’s Wikimedia Academy 2012 keynote, Alex “Skud” Bayley’s GUADEC 2012 keynote, and Michael Schwern’s YAPC 2012 keynote.
Created a non-profit charity: Created a charitable non-profit organization from scratch, including acquiring tax-exempt status in the United States, a non-trivial task.
Advised organizations on supporting women: Provided free consulting to several organizations on high-profile incidents of sexism, improving recruitment and retention of women in open tech/culture jobs, and creating a friendlier environment for women.
Taught hands-on workshops: Wrote and taught four free workshops teaching practical skills to men wanting to help women and trans people in open/tech culture.
Conducted surveys and research: We ran several surveys, including a survey of over 2800 people about attitudes towards women in open tech/culture.

Future work by The Ada Initiative will include more workshops for women, on contributing to open source projects, on fighting imposter syndrome, and on designing and running good gender diversity programs, as well as their usual work with conferences.

Here’s another thing I absolutely LOVE about The Ada Initiative. It’s about adult women in this field. I love that it’s not dismissing those of us who are already here, who are already participating. Support us who are going to conferences and speaking at events, submitting patches and writing the code! Helping us, helping us not burn out or quit in disgust because the bad things never change. Rather than writing off the women already HERE, and trying to recruit a new crop of fresh faced teenagers and recent graduates, The Ada Initiative is fighting to patch the “leaky pipeline”‘s leaks.

Women’s work fighting sexism is important. It’s especially important when it’s about supporting other women, pulling together for constructive action. I’m a supporting donor to The Ada Initiative because I want Val and Mary to get paid for doing that work, because they’re GREAT at it.

Feminism and tech/Internet activism are a big part of my life. I’ve been part of LinuxChix, Systers, DevChix, phpWomen, Drupalchix, and am peripherally involved in so many other efforts by women in specific F/LOSS communities to organize and support each other. They’re all doing great work in many dimensions. Of course, I work at BlogHer, which supports women’s participation in public discourse in blogging and social media. And I’m proud to be part of Geek Feminism the blog and wiki, which has developed into a highly organized and effective group, doing consistent work. The Ada Initiative has ties to many of these communities, and intersects with them. As a feminist FOSS non profit it can give help coordinated across many projects and communities. We have the chance to make a lasting institution for our support.

Please join The Ada Initiative, and donate anything you can afford — but I’m hoping here that you all will join at the $15/month or $30/month level! This, along with my monthly donation to Noisebridge will be my main donation effort for 2012 and 2013. I hope you join me! (And the fabulous rockstars who are TAI’s Directors and Advisors!) Donate, and … I’ll see you at AdaCamp 2013!

adacamp_2012_melbourne

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Data journalism and Media Lab fun

In June (catching up with posts here!) I went to the MIT Knight Foundation Civic Media conference to talk about data journalism and hang out with other free speech minded, politically active, wordy nerds. The tour of the MIT Media Labs was great and super inspiring. I especially loved the high low tech lab run by Leah Buchley, the materials hacking Mediated Matter lab with tons of 3d printing materials projects, and the Fluid Interfaces and Tangible Media labs. I talked with people from Document Cloud, Investigative Reporters and Editors, and the Center for Investigative Reporting as well as lots of great people from the Ford and Knight Foundations.

IMG_1530

Other stuff from my scattered notes: Irene Ros’s talk. Storyfying a company CTO’s responses to reports of sexist internet behavior in the javascript community. Data visualization is helpful to explain and show gendered bias in how women are described in the news. The squoot incident. I note to myself to tell Irene about the Joanna Russ antipatterns to detect and categorize misogyny.

IMG_1504

Someone advised me to get in touch with T Mills Kelly to talk about our work on internet hoaxes. While it looks like we work on different kinds of “hoaxes” or fictional information on the net, I’d like to take a closer look at their work.

Notes on journalist’s responsibility to the people in the story, on action in human rights communities and emerging communities online, and what journalistic ethics are regarding consent in a story or for a story. Different communities have different expectations for ethical behavior and consent around identity, identifying a source.

One of the nicest conversations I had was with Sasha Costanza-Chock who demoed VozMob for me and let me sign up to try and to test their platform, which was in beta. They wrote a Drupal module which enables people to blog very easily from feature phones — i.e. if you can’t afford a smartphone, you can still take a photo, make a slideshow, or send an SMS message directly to post on a blog. They pioneered a project here at Vozmob.net:

Mobile Voices (VozMob) is a platform for immigrant and/or low-wage workers in Los Angeles to create stories about their lives and communities directly from cell phones. VozMob appropriates technology to create power in our communities and achieve greater participation in the digital public sphere.

It looks like a very carefully set up project done in collaboration with existing organizations and communities. Their structure and guide for participation and affiliation is especially great. There is a Drupal project for the Vozmob module where development is ongoing.

Even better: the vozmob project and module evolved into a launch of a hosted platform, vojo.co. Groups or individuals can set up a vojo account to blog by voice message, or text or photos sent over SMS, or to blast to a group’s members by SMS. It looks like a great tool for activists or for any group whose constituents have phones but not feature phones. This is something that would have been (and will be) very useful for people from the Occupy movement!

vozmob logo

My own ideas that I wanted to convey to people at the conference were largely around journalism and sourcing about events that *happen on the Internet*. Data journalists often deal with large stacks of paper or PDFs that need storage, access control, and annotation as well as with plain old huge data sets. We think of events as happening in “real life” and about stuff on the net as being part of the “coverage”. But what about when the stuff on the net is the event — an Internet drama, a suddenly exploding Twitter hashtag, a political idea or a video gone viral? The stuff “happening” is happening textually or in media – it is already mediated. To write about it well, we need to source it and to source it we need ways to capture and archive it, especially as these happenings can be ephemeral; accounts or comments can be deleted. I see this as an opportunity to create tools to turn on “hotspots” of activity – for example on a controversial blog or a cluster of blogs or associated social media accounts – and record the activity happening so that sourcing of coverage about a controversy can be transparent. This might be a private, semi-private, or a site that functions as public storage like the Internet Archive. While this makes me feel as if I am re-inventing the idea of an annotatable “shadow web”, it might have more of a practical use and might be more possible with the increasing cheapness of data storage.

Well, it was a great trip to Boston, and I really appreciate getting the opportunity to participate and meet so many smart, motivated, creative people in tech and journalism.

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